In essence, Tae Kwon Do is a discipline of self control – control of the body, mind and spirit. For Tae Kwon Do to be effective, there must be concentration of these three equally important forces at the point of contact.
Physical: One must develop the following fundamentals: focus, power, speed, accuracy, balance, relaxation and coordination. It takes long, hard conditioning and practice to develop these physical abilities.
Mental: The key to this is concentration. All of your senses must be focused on what you are doing. No thoughts should stray to rent, work, romance, onlookers etc. The mind must channel energy into the physical activity of the moment. There is not even time to think about what should be done; actions must flow freely, and reactions must become reflexes. Also, the mind must be completely empty.
Spiritual: This aspect is difficult to explain. To put into words, one could say that the Tae Kwon Doist realizes the ability he or she has to kill or do serious injury to other people. He or she develops an inner responsibility to control ones ability to do harm. He or she can walk away from a fight, because of self-control.
Tae Kwon Do is built upon certain fundamentals. Some of these are goals; goals that are strived for but never attained. The reason being, no matter how fast, strong or coordinated a movement is, it can always be done faster, stronger or with better coordination. The measure error becomes smaller, but perfection is never achieved.
Focus: All parts of the body work together to concentrate the full physical force at the point and time of contact. There is also a concentration of mental and spiritual forces.
Strength: Depends on the size and firmness of an individual’s muscles. Muscles needed in Tae Kwon Do can be developed by doing special exercises and practicing certain techniques. Brute strength is useless. It must be controlled and concentrated in the right place at the right time.
Speed: The impact of a blow equals the weight of the fist (or foot) and the acceleration with which it is moving. Aside from this, speed is important, because the only effective blow is one which reaches its target before it can be stopped. Speed also offers the small person a chance against the superior strength of a larger person.
Accuracy: In order for an attack to be effective, it must be directed to a specific part of the opponent, and it must go where it is directed. Even a fast and powerful punch is useless if it cannot be delivered exactly on target.
Balance: All moves must be initiated from a position of balance. If a blow is delivered from a position of unbalance (perhaps falling forward or backward), the attacker will be extremely vulnerable. Also, of great importance, the blow will not be as powerful or effective.
Coordination: This is a matter of timing. The movements made by different parts of the body must be pulled into focus at the same time. If the foot movement is finished even a fraction before the hand movement (or vise-versa) the technique loses power.
Relaxation: The body should be relaxed at all times, except during those last 8 to 12 inches when all the internal forces pull together for focus. If one does not relax, and the muscles are constantly tight, there are bad effects: (a) fatigue. (b) A blow made with tight muscles will be slow. (c) If the body is tense, the mind will be tense and unable to receive impressions from the opponent.
Exhalation: One should exhale forcibly at the moment of focus. This makes more physical output possible by helping concentration. Also, a shout puts the opponent off-guard momentarily.
Breathing: Practice breathing very deeply. Normal breathing is so shallow that only a small portion of the lung capacity is used, while the rest of the lungs stay filled with stale air. By practicing the proper breathing procedure described below, (1) lung capacity increases, allowing more activity without fatigue, and (2) the lower abdomen is strengthened – important because it is the center of Tae Kwon Do power.
Proper breathing procedure: Muscles must be relaxed. (1) Exhalation: unless one breathes out fully, it is impossible to breath in correctly. Therefore, when exhaling, the chest is depressed by its own wieght, expelling the air. At the end of expiration, the abdominal muscles help the lungs to empty to their fullest extent. (The lungs can never empty themselves completey; there is always a residue of impure air in the lungs.) (2) Inhalation: made up of 3 phases. First breath deeply from the stomach. When it is impossible to expand the stomach any further, expand the ribs and allow more air to enter the lungs. When the ribs are fully extended, raise the collar-bones so that just a little more air can enter. By this time you are filled to the brim with air. Avoid tensing the muscles.
Self-Contained Unit: For every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction. In all sports but Tae Kwon Do, the athelete gets his power from the solid surface he is standing on pushing back as hard as he is pushing down. But the Tae Kwon Doist provides his own reaction. When the action is a kick or punch, the opposite reaction is in the abdominal muscles. This reaction is reinforced when using hand motions – the non-striking hand pulls back with as much force as the striking hand uses when delivering the blow. This claim is substantiated by the flying side kick.
Code of Ethics: This is based upon good sportsmanship and good manners. It should become a part of your everyday life. It includes good losing and graceful winning, not bragging about oneself or one’s school.
Hard Work: All of the other fundamentals depend on this one. There is no substitute.